The intensity and quality of play was right up there as a final quarter surge saw Railway Union get the better of title rivals UL Bohemians on a 24-5 scoreline at the UL Arena.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE WOMEN’S DIVISION: Saturday, September 17
UL BOHEMIANS 5 RAILWAY UNION 24, UL Arena
Scorers: UL Bohemians: Try: Geena Behan
Railway Union: Tries: Molly Boyne, Lindsay Peat, Anna McGann, Deirdre Roberts; Cons: Molly Scuffil-McCabe 2
HT: UL Bohemians 5 Railway Union 5
Railway began their Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division title defence with a tough assignment, but experienced prop Lindsay Peat, who is now also the club’s scrum coach, steered them in the right direction.
UL Bohemians’ talented back row engineered the first scoring opportunity on their 4G pitch, Clodagh O’Halloran haring through into the Railway 22 before the returning Anna Caplice, who had started the move from a quick tap, unfortunately knocked on.
The Red Robins continued to carry the greater threat with ball in hand, but Railway’s defence was giving little away and Deirdre Roberts came up with a great turnover to foil a promising UL lineout maul.
A sustained period of Railway pressure saw the deadlock broken in the 22nd minute. Flanker Molly Boyne crashed over between two defenders after good work from Anna McGann, Ava Ryder and livewire number 8 Roberts.
There was much to admire about Bohs’ precise approach work, but they were lacking a killer punch in the 22 and a turnover penalty, won by Peat, allowed Railway to hold onto their five-point lead.
Bohs kept coming, hooker Kate Sheehan returning fire with a textbook turnover penalty. It was her accurate throw to Caplice in the 36th minute that launched a terrific 20-metre maul from which prop Geena Behan dotted down a deserved levelling try.
Niamh Briggs’ side defended tenaciously early in the second half, Caplice showing her breakdown smarts and replacement Brianna Heylmann found a gap to bring play back into Railway territory.
There were some breathless passages, with Bohs captain Chloe Pearse intercepting a pass, kicking through and then following up to force a knock-on from McGann.
It was a real arm wrestle now, Railway skipper Niamh Byrne digging in to win a clearing penalty and replacement Stephanie Carroll, who fizzed with intent, raiding down the left wing before the UL cover scrambled across.
The title holders retook the lead from the resulting lineout, American recruit Emerson Allen producing the steal and fellow replacement Lisa Callan had a brilliant charge up towards the line. She popped the ball back for Peat to gleefully touch down.
Molly Scuffil-McCabe drop-kicked the conversion over to make it 12-5, and the Ireland-capped full-back soon combined with Roberts to hold up Sarah Garrett as the UL replacement came within inches of scoring.
With seven minutes remaining, Railway gave themselves some much-needed breathing space. McGann took off from just outside her own 22, getting around Alana McInerney and showing her speed as an Ireland Sevens international to run in a superb 80-metre solo score.
The Athlone woman was unstoppable as she tore clear, beating five more defenders to go over to the right of the posts. Ailsa Hughes’ well-placed 50:22 kick, straight from a ruck, kept Railway on the front foot during the dying minutes.
John Cronin’s charges were clinical through the next few phases, setting up Roberts, who had stepped in as first receiver, to slalom back out to the left where she ghosted through for the bonus point try, converted with aplomb by Scuffil-McCabe.
UL BOHEMIANS: Aoife Corey; Aoibhe O’Flynn, Alana McInerney, Stephanie Nunan, Laura O’Mahony; Rachel Allen, Muirne Wall; Geena Behan, Kate Sheehan, Fiona Reidy, Rebecca Reilly, Claire Bennett, Clodagh O’Halloran, Anna Caplice, Chloe Pearse (capt).
Replacements: Nicola Sweeney, Ciara O’Dwyer, Eilís Cahill, Sarah Garrett, Lily Brady, Abbie Salter-Townshend, Brianna Heylmann.
RAILWAY UNION: Molly Scuffil-McCabe; Aimee Clarke, Niamh Byrne (capt), Anna McGann, Ava Ryder; Nikki Caughey, Ailsa Hughes; Lindsay Peat, Chloe Blackmore, Katie O’Dwyer, Aoife McDermott, Sonia McDermott, Keelin Brady, Molly Boyne, Deirdre Roberts.
Replacements: Lisa Callan, Megan Collis, Emerson Allen, Carmen Rodera, Emma Fabby, Alaïs Diebold, Stephanie Carroll.